Southeast Bulloch has spent the last few years building its boys and girls soccer teams into respectable forces in the area.
Both squads have some rebuilding to do this season, but hopes remain high that the Yellow Jackets will continue to set the pace in the race for postseason success.
Last season’s boys team seemed to have all of the pieces in place before some bad luck took its toll. The Jackets returned an experienced senior class, but lost some early games and dropped a do-or-die matchup that left them on the doorstep of the state playoffs.
SEB will have to replace some big pieces, but remain confident that they can take a step forward.
“We have a senior class of eight kids that we think can keep us going strong,” SEB coach Bob Massee. “We’re going to miss last year’s class. That said, we’ve also got rising seniors like Bryce Cameron, Patrick Chambers and Cole Carter that we think will carry the load.”
If the weather can dry things up, the Jackets will get a good idea of where they stand this weekend at the Boots in the Boro tournament. SEB is slated to face perennial powers in Dublin and Greenbrier.
Regardless of the outcomes in non-region matches, the Jackets are confident in their ability to compete against familiar foes.
“Last year we were in a new region,” Massee said. “I think we’ll be a little bit better off this year since we know what to expect and how to play against the teams we need to beat.”
A balance in age and talent seems to be the key for the 2014 campaign.
In addition to the proven talent and experience of upperclassmen, the Jackets welcome in a huge class of 15 freshmen — some of whom can provide an immediate impact.
“We expect one or two (freshmen) to help from the start,” Massee said. “We also suspect that this class is a very talented one and will help us for years to come.”
Lady Jackets looking to build on 2013
The Southeast Bulloch girls were able to reach the Class AAA state playoffs last season, but a first round exit has left the Lady Jackets wanting more.
SEB has lost a big chunk of its scoring with Merekate Schlierf and Netanya Suarez graduating off of last year’s squad. The 2014 edition of the Jackets will have to build on consistency — something that can be done with veterans heading up all units in the starting lineup.
“We’re definitely going to lean on some of our more experienced girls early on,” SEB coach Kristin Barnhill said. “We have Casey Hadden on defense. She’ll be a leader on a back line that should be a strength for us.
“Looking up the field, Ana Olsen is a midfielder with a lot of experience. Morgan Friend will be up top. We have a lot of offense to replace, but (Friend) has been a starter for three years and can get things done for us.”
Early on, the biggest challenge for the Jackets will simply be getting everyone on the same page.
With girls playing
multiple sports and weather causing delays for everyone, preparing for the season has been a bigger challenge than usual.
Even Barnhill hasn’t escaped the chaos. As an assistant on the SEB girls basketball team that made a run to the region quarterfinals before ending its season on Thursday night, Barnhill has been stretching herself thin in her coaching duties. Still, soccer season hasn’t escaped her as 12-hour days spent on teaching and multiple sports have been the norm for Barnhill over the last few weeks. Still, soccer season hasn’t escaped her as 12-hour days spent on teaching and multiple sports have been the norm for Barnhill over the last few weeks.
Things may be hectic now, but the Lady Jackets are still expecting a solid run this spring.
“I’m lucky to have some great assistant coaches and older players that do a great job of filling in for me,” Barnhill said. “We’re going to figure things out. We have a tough region, but I think that we can be competitive again.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.